Feb 26, 2017

Medtronic Encourages Young Women to Pursue Tech Careers

Forty students attended the third Student Employer Exploration Day (SEED).

Mounds View, Minn., February 27, 2017 -- Emma Schildgen remembers exactly when she got interested in robotics.

“I fell in love with the Mars Rover,” she said. “I logged on to the computer every night to check out where it had been and what it had seen. I was hooked.”

That was 2012. Today Emma is 17, a senior at Chisago Lakes (Minnesota) High School and captain of the robotics team. She’s thinking about a career in patent law or astrophysics. Leaders at Medtronic hope she might someday consider the world of medical technology.

Emma was among 40 young women who participated in the company's third Student Employer Exploration Day (SEED) in late February. The program encourages young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM).

“As women, you will bring different ideas and different experiences to professions that will benefit from your perspectives,” Carol Malnati, vice president of research and development at Medtronic, told the group. “Scientists and engineers help solve the world’s biggest challenges. They’re the greatest jobs on the planet.”

That sounded good to 17-year-old Madie Petry, a senior at Mounds View (Minnesota) High School. She plans to study biomedical engineering in college and can envision a day when she’s helping develop medical devices. “I’m an extrovert so I would want to work with patients,” she said. “It would be great to build something that you know is going to help other people.” 

The students toured a 3D printing lab and learned how 3D imaging can be used to design and create medical devices. They received hands-on demonstrations of various components for pacemakers. And they met several women enjoying successful technology careers at Medtronic, which was a highlight for 17-year-old Sierra Kargbo, a senior at Tartan (Minnesota) High School. “It was great to talk to them,” she said. “I love math and chemistry and building things but I’m not sure yet where it will take me. This helps me learn so I can figure out which direction to go.”

Women are “woefully under-represented” in the science and technology professions, according to Sheri Henck, vice president of global supply chain at Medtronic. She urged the teenagers to pursue their interests in any STEM field. “There may be times when you’re the only female in the room. It can be scary. Embrace that as an opportunity. Use your voice. Speak up. You will be inspiring others who may not be as courageous.”

Nearly all of the 40 female students raised their hands when asked if they sometimes felt science and technology fields were still male-dominated. 

Emma, for one, is not fazed. She’s one of only two females on her 25-member robotics team, but this is her third year as team captain.

“I like engineering,” she said. “Identify a problem, map out a solution, test it and try again if it doesn’t work.”

Pretty down to earth for someone whose career interests started with a trip to Mars.